Love across borders: the German student and the English patriot

We have recently begun collecting personal stories from people all across Europe relating to migration, following on from our successful Europeana 1914-1918 project.

Our new short blog series, Love across borders, is inspired by collections discovered during this project, with stories of romance and love at the time of World War 1. Read on to see how new connections and relationships would not have been possible without people moving across the globe!

During summer 1912, the young German student Georg Schröter spent his holidays on the beautiful Isle of Wight, an island in the south of England known for its idyllic beaches and promenades. There, he met Marguerite Vincent.


framed black and white photograph of young woman

A photograph of Marguerite, signed with “Sincerely, your English friend”. Europeana 1914-1918, CC0.

She was a young woman from Southampton, actively involved in the politics of that time. She declared herself an English patriot and was member of the Southampton Ladies Conservative Association. Obviously, they were attracted by each other and started an intense pen friendship.

envelope with several green stamps

One of the letters exchanged between Georg Schröter and Marguerite Vincent on the eve of World War I. Europeana 1914-1918, CC0.

Later, Marguerite wrote about their first meeting: “What a dirty, untidy, little English girl you must have thought me! (Gurnard is) a quiet little place, where no one hardly goes. We wore all our very oldest clothes, things we could not possibly wear in Southampton. We tore them in holes & got them as dirty as we liked.”

They planned seeing each others again, as Georg explains in one letter: “And as soon as my father gives me permission, I will come back over the channel – but there will be some years passing, until I can carry out my plan. I intend to work hard further(more)…”

handwritten letter

One of the letters that Marguerite sent to her German friend Georg. Europeana 1914-1918, CC0.

Their letters are heavily influenced by the political events of that time. They discuss wars, political tensions and nationalist feelings during the two-years time of their correspondence. Georg writes: “It would be the saddest day of my life if the Triple Alliance went to war against the Triple Entente.” And Marguerite answers: “In my bed-room I have three little flags I bought one day, the flags of the three greatest Nations in the World – Germany, France & England! How I should like to see a ‘Triple Entente’ between those Countries!”

The last postcard Georg received is from 24 July 1914, four days before the Austrians declared war on Serbia, the beginning of World War 1. We do not know why their friendship ended, but it is likely that the nationalist propaganda of that time made a relationship like Marguerite and Georg’s impossible.

Do you have a story to share about love across borders, or romance during World War 1? Share your stories with Europeana Migration and Europeana 1914-1918.

· The Love across borders series was researched and written by Larissa Borck


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